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Think Global schools survey: ‘Prevent’ needs to include proactive approach

Think Global’s survey of schools about ‘Prevent’ has shown that many lack confidence in ‘proactive safeguarding’ – creating a safe space within school for children to discuss difficult global issues connected to extremism and radicalisation.  This is in contrast to much greater confidence with ‘reactive safeguarding’ – spotting the danger signs and taking action.

Teachers were asked to get in touch with their experiences, following concerns expressed by Think Global’s teacher members that more support is needed for teachers in this sensitive area. 100 responses have been collated together to provide a snapshot of school sentiment.

The straw-poll survey shows that a majority of schools were taking seriously the duty to safeguard children against the risks of extremism – what Think Global calls ‘reactive safeguarding’. School staff have often received training from either their local police or local authority in this regard, and they treat it as another aspect of general reactive safeguarding of children. However, the survey highlighted that they understood much less about how to create a safe space within the school for children to discuss difficult global issues connected to extremism and radicalisation – what Think Global calls ‘proactive safeguarding’. They are seeking more support, training and resources to help with this.

Head of Programmes at Think Global, Sarah Williams, said,

“The Prevent duty includes specific reference to guidance for safeguarding children against the risks of extremism. Qualitative evidence demonstrates that these practical duties are being taken seriously by schools in line with their wider reactive safeguarding practices.

“However, for Prevent to be effective, school safeguarding also needs to include a proactive approach. Safeguarding against extremism involves protecting young people’s belief systems and responding to wider influences. Reactive safeguarding around extremism alone could mean that interventions are too late. Schools need to focus on empowering young people to thrive in a globalised world and develop their own critical understanding about the global concepts linked to extremism.

“Young people need to connect with these global issues, develop their understanding of the multiple causes and effects of conflict, and understand the interdependence of their world. They need the skills to think critically and the opportunity to develop a resilient, inquiring attitude. They need schools to be safe spaces to explore their ideas and concerns. This age-appropriate proactive safeguarding, alongside the more reactive measures, offers the best chance to protect young people from radicalisation.”

Details of the results

  • Teachers are aware of the new duty – more than half thought that teachers in their school were very aware, and a further third were fairly aware.
  • Much of the awareness comes from training, either from the local authority or the local police.
  • Teachers are confident in their school’s ability to meet the new safeguarding requirements – more than a third were very confident in their school’s ability and a further half were fairly confident. This is reflected in many of the comments – summarised as “a lot done, but much more do to”.

“The wider links to SMSC and support tools to engage the wider community to be more cohesive and communicative are the most challenging elements in terms of time and resources.”

“Like all safeguarding situations, the reality tends to be complex, hence my hesitation.”

  • A fifth of schools have received a lot of support, with half of the schools having received some support.
  • However, fully one third of schools have had little or no support so far. Of those that have received support two thirds thought it was good or excellent and a third thought it was just okay or poor.
  • The most common requests for additional support around pro-active safeguarding are, firstly, resources, followed by training on critical thinking and responses to questions, and then general advice/guidance.

Think Global is following up with schools to get more information on support needed, and is grateful to all the teachers who took the time to respond to the survey.   For more information about this work, please contact Sarah Williams.


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